At What Age Can You Start Drawing Retirement?

Many people think you start drawing retirement income at age 65, but that’s not always the case. People approaching retirement age likely will have several different sources of retirement income lined up. Each of those retirement income arrangements may have a different retirement age for taking out the full benefit. The most common sources of retirement income are Social Security, 401(k) and IRA plans, and private pensions.

Social Security

The age at which you are entitled to claim your full Social Security retirement benefit varies according to your birth year. Persons born in 1937 or earlier could get their full benefit at age 65. For each birth year after 1937, the retirement age increased by two months -- up to a point. If you were born in 1942, for example, your retirement age became 65 years and 10 months.

Social Security Base Ages 66 and 67

Persons born in 1943 through 1954 have a full Social Security retirement age of 66. For each birth year after 1954, the retirement age rises by two months, so if you were born in 1959, your full retirement age is 66 and 10 months. You can collect a Social Security retirement benefit starting at age 62, but it will be 30 percent lower than if you waited until age 66. Persons born in 1960 and later must wait until age 67 to collect their full retirement benefit. If you wait until age 70 to collect, your monthly benefit will be 8 percent higher than at age 67.

401(k)s and IRAs

The federal regulations governing tax-advantaged retirement savings accounts such as 401(k)s, and individual retirement arrangements, called IRAs, define full retirement age as 59 ½. At that age you can start withdrawals from your 401(k) or IRA without penalty, although you must pay income taxes on the withdrawals. You must start drawing money from the accounts when you reach age 70 ½. You can withdraw money from these plans if you are younger than 59 ½, but you must pay a 10-percent penalty in addition to the income taxes on the amount you took out early.

Private Pensions

Private pension plans have their own rules for when you can receive full retirement benefits. Most private pension plans still consider 65 to be the retirement age. Some plans may offer the option to retire as early as age 55, but with a reduced benefit amount. Employers may elect to offer full retirement benefits at an earlier retirement age as an incentive for senior employees to voluntarily leave the company.

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